Letter from Lawrence Clark Leavitt to His Father and Step-Mother, 13 January 1959
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[Below is a letter written from Lawrence Clark Leavitt to his father, Franklin Dewey Leavitt, and his step-mother, Jane Stuart Glenn Leavitt. This letter was dated nine days prior to the death of Lawrence’s father, Franklin Dewey Leavitt.]
Jan. 13, 1959
Dearest Mother [Jane Stuart Glenn Leavitt] & Dad [Franklin Dewey Leavitt]:
As I [Lawrence Clark Leavitt] look back through the years, I am amazed at how short they seem. I cherish the memory of my childhood, because during that childhood with you, the GUIDE POSTS of my life were set up. I am eternally grateful for the guidance you gave me. Many times I have come to the cross-roads of a decision between right and wrong, and the decisions were made easier because those guide posts were ever glowing in the darkest hours of my life.
There were many times, mother dear [Jane Stuart Glenn Leavitt], that the responsibilities of an extra family handed you in a bunch must have been more than a normal person could carry. But, how I love you, darling, for the wonderful way you came through. We as youngsters could not possibly realize your position, and not until we had our own families did we realize the tender and loving care you gave all of us. Thank you mother dear for what you have been to me and for the love that I now know that you always had for me. Because of the rapid passing of the years I suddenly realize I have not told you often enough of my appreciation and how I admire you for being a wonderful mother to me, as well the love and understanding for five children not of your own flesh and blood.
My greatest wish for all my own family and all the families branched out from your own loving circle IS: that they could love and be loved as you, mother [Jane Stuart Glenn Leavitt], have loved your ever loving husband and our proud daddy [Franklin Dewey Leavitt]. I am not unmindful of the hardships and deprivations that could have discouraged and broken down many other strong hearted parents. There were times I may not have understood why there was not available some of the little things I wanted so badly. I now realize that your hidden tears and agony of heart was because you would have loved to have given them to me but it was impossible for you to do so. [They had 14 living children.]
There are memories I cherish that have very often brought happiness to me. In my minds eye I can now see that whole Leavitt family congregating at our place, Uncle Will’s [William Jenkins Leavitt, older brother of Franklin Dewey Leavitt] and Uncle Tom’s [Thomas Rowell Leavitt, Jr., oldest brother to Franklin Dewey Leavitt], preparatory to going to Crooked Creek and the Lakes for fishing and camping. There would be the horses, wagons, tents, food baskets and huge rolls of bedding. Such excitement filled the air. I remember the gaiety, laughter and singing. At night when the beds were spread out over the big kitchen floor I remember Uncle Dud [Thomas Dudley Leavitt, half-brother to Franklin Dewey Leavitt, son of Thomas Rowell Leavitt and his second wife through polygamy, Antoinette Davenport Leavitt] getting in the wrong bed. I well remember the pillow fight that followed.
The Christmas dinners at Mother Glenn’s [William Fleming Glenn and Mary Ellen Stuart Glenn, parents of Jane Stuart Glenn Leavitt] could never be forgotten (if only the darned old cows would have dried up so we would not have to go home to milk them!) Anyway, the big dinners, the skating on the pond and the sleigh riding were extremely impressive.
The earliest incident I can remember was going on the train with mother [Eliza Jane Ruth Dowdle] and dad [Franklin Dewey Leavitt]. I could not have been more than three or four at the most. Dad [Franklin Dewey Leavitt] took me in the rest room set me on that cold cold pottie and prematurely pulled the flush cord. The roar of that rail track coming up through that open hole scared me spitless; say noting of that ice water blowing back on my little teddy bare … I am quite sure you never got me back in the mean mean pottie room again.
OLD FIVE-FOOT … Of course, he is a tradition with the family. For the sake of the younger family let me tell you about Old Five-Foot. He actually had an extra foot attached to his right front ankle. He had a huge hard lump on the knee making it impossible for him to bend the knee. When he would walk he would throw his stiff leg out to the side and in a half circle bring it out in front. We used to ride him and make him gallop. The gallop was rhythmical and he would put his stiff leg out first then bring all other three legs up with a thump and a thud. We would sing “Oh George Baker, George Baker the candle stick maker,” and his stiff leg with the extra foot would come down on exactly the right beat. I used to haul water with him hooked on to the go-devil sled. Many times I had to go to the east ranch a mile and a half away. If the runner of the sled did not wear out and spill my water, Old Five-Foot soon learned how to lighten his load by picking out just the right size of rock to run over. [Luella Leavitt, Grandpa’s older sister, refers to this same horse in her “Memories of my Mother” document. That document is on familysearch under her name, Luella Leavitt.]
Do you remember, dad [Franklin Dewey Leavitt], when you were putting a ring in the bull’s nose? You lost the little screw that held the two ring halves together. You had the whole family look for hours in the dirt for this screw … We even screened a ton of dirt through the door screen … At long last you were the hero … You found it! It was in your mouth—put there for safe keeping. I hate to think what we would have had to do had you swallowed the darn thing.
I think the most humorous incident, though it had its serious moments, happened at the time you were building the big house up west of Sorensens. I was up in the gable end nailing on a brace. It must have been at least 30 feet up from where you were standing on the ground trying to tell me where to nail the brace. I was a little mad and went to sock the nail a real hard one and the hammer slipped out of my hand and landed on top of your head. Frank [Lawrence’s older brother, Frank Wilford Leavitt] was lathing and he saw you staggering around like crazy and he jumped down and guided you to a nail keg. As you came to, Frank asked you what happened? You said, “That damn kid up there just tried to kill me, that’s all.” This struck Frank a little funny and he started to laugh. You jumped up and said, “This is no laughing matter!” Frank couldn’t hold his giggles and you started after him reaching for a lath as you advanced. Frank started to run around the house with you behind him only two paces. He may have out-distanced you, had he not hesitated to tell himself he could not possibly jump the 15 foot caved-in ditch behind the house. He suddenly decided he would simply have to jump it, and just as he took the last step for the take-off, you caught up, and with that mighty left foot of yours you helped him clear that ditch with at least five feet to spare. This was seven feet farther than Frank had ever jumped before. Having satisfied yourself at being pretty good at football, you laughed and went home to show maw [Jane Stuart Glenn Leavitt] the apple sized knot on your head. Just in case I forgot at the time daddy [Franklin Dewey Leavitt], to say I’m sorry, I’ll say it now. I am sure you were a great sport.
[End of letter]
[It is important here to provide historical perspective. Grandpa’s (Lawrence Clark Leavitt) mother, Eliza Jane Ruth Dowdle Leavitt (19 December 1869—21 April 1904), passed away 21 April 1904, when he was not yet four years old. Franklin Dewey Leavitt and Eliza Jane Ruth Dowdle had eight children prior to Eliza’s death:
William (1891—1891—born prematurely, he only lived three hours—month and date is unknown);
Thomas (1892—1892—he was born prematurely and only lived five hours—month and date is unknown);
Mary Ivy (1 March 1893—28 April 1984);
Luella (31 May 1895—18 July 1978);
Frank Wilford (5 November 1897—27 January 1955);
Lawrence Clark (28 June 1900—2 November 1983);
Arlo (27 May 1902—23 April 1903);
Eliza Ruth (29 March 1904—4 June 1984).]
[Grandpa (Lawrence) refers to five children above. William and Thomas both died at birth, and Arlo passed away from seizures on the train returning from Wellsville, Utah to Cardston, Alberta, Canada. Arlo was less than eleven months old when he passed away. So the five that Jane Stuart Glenn Leavitt inherited were Mary Ivy, Luella, Frank Wilford, Lawrence Clark (my grandfather), and Eliza Ruth.]
[Franklin Dewey Leavitt married his second wife, Jane Stuart Glenn Leavitt, in polygamy, one year prior to his first wife, Eliza Jane Ruth Dowdle Leavitt, passing away. Franklin Dewey Leavitt and Jane Stuart Glenn Leavitt had ten (10) children of their own:
(1) Zina (27 August 1904—11 July 1942);
(2) Mable (18 February 1906—6 June 1972);
(3) Glen (13 August 1908—13 January 1980);
(4) Jay (13 February 1910—26 February 1910);
(5) Boyd (25 October 1912—3 May 2004);
(6) Keith (15 October 1915—1 April 1994);
(7) Maxine (25 March 1918—28 September 1996);
(8) Jane (Jean) (20 December 1920—11 November 2006);
(9) Douglas Thayne (4 July 1923—25 July 1944); and
(10) Barbara (23 November 1925—19 December 1981).]
[The copy of this letter I have in my possession ends here. There is apparently no closing to the letter, and there is no signature. I came into possession of this letter from my aunt, Maureen Leavitt Jackson. Aunt Maureen is the last surviving child (as of this date, 31 December 2017) of Lawrence Clark and Mary Ann Davies Leavitt. Aunt Maureen told me for months that she had this precious letter from her father to his parents, but she could not find it. She wondered if her children had lost or misplaced the letter. A few days ago in a phone conversation, Aunt Maureen was so excited to tell me they had found the letter, that it was at her son’s home, Clifford Thomas Jackson. I called and spoke to Tom and he was able to scan the letter and send it to me. Aunt Maureen treasures this letter so much that she promised it would never leave her possession again. After reading it, I understood her passion for the document. The original, as it was sent to me, is posted on family search on two pages. I have word processed the letter to make it searchable and easier to read. While word processing, I made very few changes—I added an ending quotation where Grandpa left that off—who hasn’t done that. I didn’t skip a space where many of the commas were—Grandpa typed this letter in 1959 with what would have to have been an old fashioned typewriter. For posterity’s sake, in brackets, I have added full names and some details so the reader would know who Grandpa was referring to. Aunt Maureen has helped me verify that each person was identified accurately. This letter was written on 13 January 1959 from Los Angeles, California. The letter was written nine (9) days prior to the death of Grandpa’s father, Franklin Dewey Leavitt, one of the two people the letter was written to. Great-grandfather Franklin Dewey Leavitt was living and passed away in Cardston, Alberta, Canada. I asked Aunt Maureen if the letter would have made it to Franklin Dewey Leavitt prior to his passing. She felt strongly that Grandpa would have made sure it arrived on time. Personally, I wonder if that’s why the letter doesn’t appear to be signed or finished. I have wondered if Grandpa was working on the letter and didn’t get it finished when he would have been notified that his father passed away. This is pure speculation on my part. If anyone knows differently, or any of those details, please let me know. Franklin Dewey Leavitt (passed away when I was 2-1/2 years of age) is my great-grandfather; Jane Stuart Glenn Leavitt is my step-great-grandmother, who I met several times; Lawrence Clark Leavitt is my paternal grandfather, and I am Ron Leavitt, the sixth of eight children of Bryce Clark and Ella Beth Weeks Leavitt.]